Facebook Versus Twitter In An Existential Ethical Battle

October 31, 2019

If life were fair, we’d all be using Twitter instead of Facebook. But life is only fair in our imagination and the stories we tell ourselves through our movies and religions. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse in the ethically challenged world of Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg just returned from a speaking tour to promote Facebook’s official policy to allow political advertising on FB that blatantly lies or promotes untruths, a fact the Trump re-election campaign had already been taking advantage of, which is what prompted the formal public announcement. Zuckerberg also reiterated they will not be fact-checking political ads, claiming that lying in political ads “is an issue of freedom of speech”. (Since lying and spreading fallacious statements is a constitutional right.) But no one is buying it. Facebook employees reacted by sending the CEO a petition of protest stating they don’t agree with the policy. A few well known money managers liquidated Facebook’s stock from their portfolios stating they couldn’t own the company in good conscience because “Facebook’s blatant lack of integrity and constant assault on truth is disgusting”. Even longtime FB haters have been shocked by this latest policy decision. Analysts on yesterday’s earnings call threw Zuck plenty of life preservers hoping he would adjust or clarify the decision. But before he could say anything, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey beat him to the punch by Tweeting and issuing a press release (at the exact start time of FB’s earnings call) to announce it would no longer allow any political advertising on its platform globally due to the proliferation of fallacious and misleading statements, stating “political message influence should be earned, not bought.” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff went on record saying that “Facebook is the most dangerous company in the world today” (though he may have temporarily forgotten about Lockheed Martin et al.) calling them “the Big Tobacco of our time”. (Mark is a good guy but has always been prone to hyperbole.)

So… all around bad news right? Wrong. For us, yes. For the world, sure. But not for Facebook. Facebook reported yet another stellar earnings report last night. Advertising revenue has not decelerated, but continues to grow. Monthly and daily average user numbers are still growing. Facebook is one of the largest countries on planet earth, for perspective, with DAUs of 1.6 billion. Compared to only 150 million for TWTR. The companies aren’t comparable on any metric. Some on Main Street have voiced their concern by stopping using FB and switching to Instagram. The joke is obviously on them since Insta is FB.

For some, yesterday was an existential line in the sand, the ethical battle lines clearly drawn between the good and the bad, the heroic and villainous, the helpful versus harmful. Dorsey didn’t just abstain from making a judgment call that harms the world community for a profit, he took a bold step for conscious capitalism knowing it would negatively affect profits. Likewise Zuckerberg didn’t just not take an action that could have helped the world, he made a decision to generate more profits knowing it would be harmful.

But does anyone care? That’s the real question. In a world where evils like nuclear weapons, royalty, the Catholic Church, big tobacco, big oil, big Pharma, political lobbying, live organ harvesting in China, etc. have been traditionally routinely ignored and allowed to exist, it is hard to imagine that humanity’s good conscience is what’s going to stop Facebook from doing whatever it wants to despite how harmful it might be. But that may be the cynical viewpoint. Or the realistic one. One thing is certain though: Facebook exists for one reason only, to generate money. If it’s user base started to decline and it started losing money because people didn’t agree with its policies, it would change said policies overnight. I personally don’t enjoy Twitter but find it useful if not essential for certain things. Though I wholeheartedly respect and admire the company and it’s executive team. On the other hand i thoroughly enjoy Facebook and Insta as a user. Though I loathe the company and it’s executives. It’s tricky for all of us I’m sure. I would love to see us as a community collectively take FB down or force them to grow a conscience. Just thinking out loud.

More Flying and Floating While Dreaming

October 12, 2019

PLEASE SHARE. (Prelude: I literally just woke up. (Late night.) So pardon the potential rough grammatical edges of this post, but if I keep my eyes closed after awakening from dreams I can still see and recall them vividly. So I’m deliberately staying half asleep at the moment.) Let me give you slight context and then ask you all for your experiences.

As loyal readers will know, I started dreaming of being able to fly in 2004. Though it started out as me taking running starts and then doing super long leaps thru the air, 200-500 yards at a time. It continued to evolve, in dreams, over the last 15 years. And now I easily float/fly around rooms, or through the air outside.

I just awoke from a dream where we are all at a big avatar course and I needed to get my books from the room so I just floated thru the room to go get them and not disturb anyone.

A FEW NOTES: yes it’s me, my physical body. I’m not ethereal or astral. I’m physically flying. People see me. I’m flat and parallel to the ground, about 5-10 feet in the air depending on what my goal is, with my arms outstretched. No it’s not “easy”, I still have to work at it in the dream, talk myself through it each time in terms of how to move and shift my weight to stay afloat and aim and get to where I want to go etc. It’s a method that I’ve evolved over the last 15 years. Maybe a few hundred dreams now. But only in dreams (I guess?). I can get afloat and parallel to the ground easily now. Ascend to whatever heights I want to. I usually get nervous or scared when I go too high in the air. So I tend to stay at about 5-15 feet. I can turn easily. I can descend and land easily.

When I began waking up this morning, it was the last thing I was doing in the dream, so it was still so fresh and real that I asked Princess Little Tree if I often flew in real life, or was it just in my dreams. She assured me I have not yet managed to do it in real life, but i dream and talk and write about it a lot. I tried anyway, not quite believing her, but alas i could not float up. F*^king gravity. Very frustrating.

Here’s where YOU come in: I am curious about others who frequently dream of being able to float through the air or fly or even leap long distances. Anything that defies gravity. I am more curious about you doing it physically i.e. with your body, not astrally (astrally we do it all the time in dreams. So it’s not… you know.) How do you do it? Are you parallel to the ground? How do you propel yourself? How do you ascend? How do you turn? How high can you go? Anything in this realm re flying or floating please feel free to share.

CONTEMPLATION: I’d like to first discuss the physical mechanics of the phenomenon, permitting I’m not crazy and the only one here, and then separately discuss the metaphorical ramifications. I’m more interested in the physical aspects of the paradigm, of your paradigm if you’ve experienced this… as i believe it is leading to our eventually being able to do this in real life. I’ve become quite convinced of it over the last 25 years. I’ve tinkered with designs for various body packs to machines that suck gravity out of large spaces, you name it. But to be honest i am now leaning toward thinking that we will do it using our minds. SO I’m curious what others have come up with.

Again, the metaphorical ramifications of these kind of dreams… we’ve covered that a lot… My wife, God bless her, has taken too many pages of notes on that subject thru the years while I lie there pondering it aloud while half-in-dream. My excitement is about YOUR physical mechanical experiences and what you’ve discovered. Feel free to share ANYthing you remember or that comes to mind.

Thanks, E

Junk and Stuff

September 21, 2019

Every weekend we attack the boxes and attempt to unpack a little more. But moving from a large house in the middle of nowhere to a small apt in the city entails abandoning most of your belongings. especially when you own at least one or more of everything in existence. You can’t think of a thing that’s not in these boxes. It’s an immobilizing endeavor. Entirely overwhelming. To pick and choose what to keep and what to give away.

After living out of just 4 suitcases for 4 years, we are absolutely stupefied and overwhelmed by how much stuff there is. We became very accustomed to not having anything. No stuff. Which affords a ton of free attention and creative energy. You’re free. And now we can barely walk from so much stuff. It feels as though the stuff is very important. You’ve collected it your whole life. Or it was gifted to you by people you love. It’s more than just stuff in that regard. It has incalculable value. Some of it. Yet now we question the true cost of keeping “things”. Versus living in a metropolitan city. That’s the core choice when it comes down to it. A very first world problem, granted.

It keeps occurring to me “what if a natural disaster just wiped all this out but we lived? Wouldn’t that make this all easier? If we just had no choice in the matter?” What’s ultimately important? This circling idea prompted me to give away my entire library of books CDs and vinyl. Tens of thousands. For those that know me well and knew my library, i did it…. every album ever released in the world since recorded music. Every book. Every movie. It was inevitable in the face of the new digital world we live in where we can access nearly everything from our cell phones.

Yes I know, it’s not the same. That’s true. It’s just not. Not the books, nor the albums. The experience leaves one cold and empty. Experiencing media digitally. Though I dont yet quite know why. But I gave it all away anyway. Because it’s an entire room of just a library. Of media. Hundreds of boxes. And rooms are preciously priceless in a city. If one has two bedrooms in NYC your friends exclaim “oh my God look at this place!” their mouth hanging open. Weird. But true. Kinda sad that we do it. Why do we do it? Who gives a f*^% if you live in a city or not?

I’m still mourning this huge release of my library. Palpable painful sadness. Shock. I keep reminding myself to consider the Russian oligarchs during the Bolshevik Revolution. They lost everything and fled with nothing. People do this. They endure much worse. It’s insane that that’s the thought that keeps me sane i think. I’m a monster. Stuff is just stuff. Who cares?

Life though… that’s everything. Living. Breathing. Pulsating. Life. Vietnam. WW II. Darfur. Syria. The images haunt me. I am brought to shame again and again by the wasted emotion and importance we afford to whether or not we keep a wedding present. Life is irreplaceable. But this… this is just a thing. The choice seems an essential one. City versus stuff. You simply can’t have both. One is forced to contend with it. It’s a private revolution. But self imposed. The importance imagined.

I harbor a secret longing for a war or catastrophe to come along and sort this out for us by destroying everything we own. To remind us what’s important in life. Which leads me to quietly acknowledge that I’ve already made the decision. I just haven’t fully integrated the emotional impact of the tradeoff. Which fills me with guilt and self hatred. Who mourns belongings in the face of so much chaos pain and suffering in the world around them?

I am reminded of Oscar Schindler. How much i related to him before his awakening. And how much i feared and dreaded the reality of his final day’s post-materialism. Post apocalypse. That raw flailing and unnerving humanity. Not getting it until it was too late. The Shakespearean tragedy of a life ill spent.

It’s not too late now though i think. It took me twenty-five years to get here. My god. Have i finally started to wake up? I have time to help more. To address more of the world’s pain and suffering. To be less selfish and shamefully material. To at least try. I am suddenly relieved. Lighter. More free attention. Priorities have fallen into place.

It is not too late for me yet. The war is not over. The holocausts have not entirely transpired. We’re in the middle of the film still. I can choose to change before the lights come up. Not wait until the very end. I’ve been terrified of this moment my entire life. But I’m not sure I can go back now.

What the United States Government Doesn’t Say About Iran

September 17, 2019

Just did a refresher study on the exile and last year of the (second) shah of Iran. Was specifically interested in it’s effects on U.S. relations and global stability then and now.

As we already know, Great Britain and the the United States through the CIA with a little help from France perpetrate a coup d’etat in 1953 to topple the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, who had run on a platform of not giving away Iranian oil to Great Britain at below market costs anymore. These three western powers then reinstall the Shah of Iran’s son into power and reinstate monarchic rule in iran. Just what the Iranian people wanted. NOT. Great Britain, France and the US form a new big oil conglomerate from all this free oil they’re about to come into and call it BP, British Petroleum. In exchange they will prop up and support the monarchy in Iran militarily against the wishes of the people and keep down any revolts.

And so begins a renewed relatively stable alliance between Iran and western nations. Iran becomes more and more westernized. Brits move there in droves to run the oil plants. Iranian kids go to British schools and learn English. Highways and streets in Tehran are renamed Eisenhower Boulevard and Kennedy Street.

After a few decades of watching the so called “royals”, elites and western nations blow through all their wealth and natural resources the Iranian people begin to get angry. Like revolution angry. It’s the 1970s. The situation is not helped by the fact that a well educated and well spoken radical Islamic cleric named Khomeini is constantly preaching revolution from exile in France, encouraging the people to rise up against western domination. Protests in the streets begin, calling for an “end to control by America”.

In the late 70s, the presidents of the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany secretly meet in Guadalupe to discuss what they’re going to do about the Shah because their oil contracts are soon to expire and they don’t want to start paying more. Do they depose the Shah? Take him out? Support him and squash the protests and use their support to bargain their prices low for another 50 years? Before they can decide they’re informed that the Shah has cancer from one of their informants. Ah hah! Perfect! Let’s not support him during these turbulent times, we’ll force him into exile and put someone else in power who will give us even more control and lower oil prices.

It’s getting dangerous for the Shah now. He calls his US and British allies to ask for help and they inform him they won’t be able to help him. He should leave if he has to. So he does. First to Egypt. Then Morocco. Then the Bahamas. Then Mexico. By now Khomeini has returned to Iran as a revolutionary hero. Promising an end to monarchy, western rule and a return to democracy. He very quickly kills everyone ever employed by the shah’s government and names himself Supreme Leader for Life. He obviously had watched Star Wars one too many times.

By now the Shah is very sick. In his defense, US president Carter, though he ruthlessly betrayed his ally for his country’s selfish gain, did want to help the Shah in his illness. But the Iranian people were not going to tolerate the US harboring the Shah, healing his illness and then reinstating him again in a year or two. So they stormed the American embassy in Tehran and took a bunch of American hostages and demanded the Shah return to face trial and a return of all the Iranian assets that the Federal Reserve, the US Treasury, American banks and American corporations had seized during the protests. (Some of this money was eventually returned to Iran by US president Barack Obama 40 years later, who also acknowledged and apologized for the 1953 coup, which is what created the current mess the Iranian people are still in today.)

President Carter at this point just wants those American hostages back. He realizes he made a huge mistake by ousting the Shah and allowing this Islamic cleric Khomeini to waltz in and take over Iran. But he cant get enough of his colleagues to agree to give Iran all their assets back. So the hostages are stuck as pawns there in a dangerous political game. The Rockefellers, who are holding billions of Iranian assets in their banks, don’t want to let go of all that money but they do offer to provide doctors and medical support to try to save the Shah’s life. So they secretly fly him to New York. An operation is performed. It’s botched. He gets sicker. They then become fearful the American hostages will be endangered if they continue to help the Shah. So they fly him to Texas and then force him on Panama, using the recently completed Panama Canal deal as a bargaining chip. But Panama too is afraid of retaliation by this crazy mad Khomeini. So they cut a secret deal with Khomeini to extradite the Shah back to Iran to stand trial and be executed.

But Egypt’s Sadat swoops In to rescue his old friend and offers him sanctuary in Egypt. So off they fly to Egypt. The Carter administration calls Khomeini and says “we’ve put the Shah on a CIA plane to Egypt. We’ll trade you the Shah for our hostages. Do what you want with him.” Obviously getting cheap oil is no longer a priority. And neither is loyalty to longtime allies.

The US suddenly brings the plane down on some Portuguese islands in order to secretly hand the Shah over to Iran without telling him (they tell him they have to refuel. They dont), but Khomeini doesn’t trust the U.S. so the deal gets broken at the last minute. The Shah ends up back in Egypt. He very soon dies from complications from his botched American surgeries. The Ayatollah Khomeini does eventually release the American hostages but waits to do it until Carter is ousted from Washington just to twist the knife a little and make his point clear.

He believes he may have found at least a frenemy in new US president Ronald Reagan, who very soon will militarily and financially support a newly American installed ruthless dictator in Iraq named Hussein who is immediately and secretly ordered by the US to attack and overtake Iran. Which he does. In the 8 year Iran-Iraq war. Of course, Reagan, not wanting to play favorites also secretly supports Iran by supplying them with weapons of war to kill the Iraqis, assuming that no matter who wins they’ll just become their ally and help them get rid of the other guy. They both have plenty of oil after all.

Eventually this plan backfires as both countries begin to realize that neither of them want to be subservient lapdogs of the wicked western imperialists. The US eventually takes Iraq out 20 years later. Along with a few other pesky Muslim nations. Only Iran remains, steadfast in their desire for self deterministic rule and autonomy, albeit under excruciatingly unhappy circumstances under a brutal authoritarian rule.

There’s more to the story. There always is. But it all goes back to ‘53 and ‘79. American greed, selfishness,

very poor judgment and ill advised strategy. And here we all are. Happy days.

Remembering September 11th Eighteen Years Later

September 11, 2019

When it first happened I was at a spanish language school for a semester down in Costa Rica. With a bunch of mainly Europeans. We watched it happening live on the news like everyone. The Euros immediately jumped at the chance to make comments like “serves them right” or “it was only a matter of time”. And though I understood the sentiment, it was too horrific for me to go down that path in that moment. I was more in shock, and worried about all my friends in NYC.

The only other American at the school, a college kid named Heath, and I got called to the American Embassy in San Jose, where we stayed with a bunch of other Americans, tourists and fishermen mostly, for a number off hours. Eventually released and told it would be a few days before we could fly back to the US. Told not to go out and cause any trouble. Keep a low profile.

So off we went to a brothel where we spent the next two days passing the time trying to drink and fuck the pain away. What the Euros at our school didn’t understand was that although we were every bit as aware of and cynical about the last two-hundred years of violent American imperialism, America was still our home. Americans were still our friends family and neighbors.

When i got back to the States we hit the studio to finish working on the Sleep With You album. But we interrupted those sessions to record a song to help donate to various 9/11 charities. That songs being “Rebuild America”. What I was taken with the most back then was how resilient the country was in the face of such a horrific event. How much it unified us. We didn’t get down or depressed. We got all flagged up, amped up and proud. At the time it felt better than going dark.

So the song ended up being more patriotic and uplifting than our normal fare. I still find it hard to believe that a song called “Rebuild America” is associated with us/me in any way. If you would have told me five to ten years before that that I’d have a single out in the future called Rebuild America i would have asked “is it ironic? Did I lose my mind? Or go mad? Did i lose my cool?” If you would have then replied “no not at all. America got attacked. Like Pearl Harbor scale attack. You did the song in earnest.” Yeah. Perhaps I would understand.

Critics used the song as easy pickings to chastise me for a few years after. Implying that it betrayed “coolness”. Perhaps it does. But I don’t regret it. Because it was real. You had to be there. I always thought that was a cheap shot. Because that event was such a viscerally upsetting moment for many of us. And we needed the release. Regardless of where we lined up on the political fence, it hurt.

There was, looking back now, such a strong subconscious react to that kind of intense shock and violence that manifested in extreme positivity and patriotism. Even for those of us who knew the dark seedy underbelly of United States foreign policy. I had never seen anything like it, that kind of avid patriotism. Maybe Rocky IV Cold War era stuff.

Of course it all went down hill quickly from there and we turned all that patriotism into more violence and empire building. Used it as an excuse to finally take over the rest of the Middle East region of the globe sans Iran, and Saudi Arabia, where the attacks actually originated from, but as they say thou dost not shit in your own backyard and the United States has had Arabia in its backyard for fifty years. Hence allowing one little family to prop up a dictatorship and add their name “Saudi” to the name of an entire country. Disgraceful. But whatever.

further on down the road we learned about the dubious nature of the events themselves… and many now believe it to be an inside job. See the documentaries called Loose Change on youtube. But for a brief moment at least we saw potential in America. It just didn’t last. Very sad.

I saw the planes crash into us

I saw the people cry

I saw the buildings come crumbling

I saw the rescuers sigh

I saw the president weep

On national TV

I saw the volunteers sweeping

To clean the New York City streets

As we try

Yes we try

To rebuild America

The land of our fathers

The land of our mothers

America

We are not alone

“Rebuild America” by Ed Hale & the Transcendence

youtu.be/sf8W8CEJaSs

The Mechanism Of Karma

September 10, 2019

A long time ago, I really wanted to understand the mechanism of karma, attempt to ascertain if it was a valid theory of universal flow or just an interesting idea. I studied it intellectually, put my attention on it in the real world, felt into it. Observed. The idea of it being a strictly measurable cause and effect process as suggested by the Krishna discipline didn’t sit right with me. But it did intrigue me nonetheless.

What I observed was that whenever I did something, say out of the ordinary or even commonplace, it usually popped up in my world from a different direction or person. If I told an untruth I noticed more people telling me untruths. If I volunteered for something or supported someone I noticed it would often happen to me from someone else.

But this direct cause and effect stream didn’t make sense scientifically. We could try to examine it from a vibrational viewpoint… and perhaps one day we’ll catch science up to vibration energy and it’s effects.

What I began to realize was that by doing something, anything, I was in essence acknowledging its existence in my universe. Your attention doesn’t even have to be focused on it per se, but just the act of doing it brings it into your universe. THAT exists now in your world. You’ve acknowledged it. And by so doing it you’ve invited it to enter.

If we take a moment and come up with something we absolutely never do or never even think about, for me I’ll say “hunting” off the top of my head, we notice that we never encounter that in our day to day lives. It exists in the world, but we ignore it, because it doesn’t exist in our world. As we often say, kindness begets kindness. Deception begets deception. Could be karma in action.

Of course it’s not a perfect science yet. At least not to us here yet. It’s very fluid. Wonky. Unpredictable. Underlying it probably holds some fascinating science. I look forward to us discovering it.

A President Should Be Presidential – On China Trade War and the Federal Reserve

August 31, 2019

REALITY CHECK: While many (including myself) agree with the US president’s stance on China Trade, specifically the need to stop forced technology transfers and IP theft (the trade imbalance is not actually an issue; certainly not one that can be or ever has been solved through a race to the bottom tariff war. Trade imbalances between nations of different sizes have always and will always exist. Attempting to equalize Trade monetarily is ill advised. The US president either doesn’t know this yet or refuses to acknowledge it publicly), all who actually work in business, finance and economics wholeheartedly believe that he, and we, would be much better served if he stopped attacking and blaming Jerome Powell and the Federal Reserve for the extreme volatility in global bond and equity markets and the general economic slowdown and instead acknowledged that it is indeed the current trade war with China.

Main-streeters may be entertained by these daily twitter shenanigans (since when is a US president allowed to tweet? Didn’t President Obama have to relinquish his BlackBerry when he took office?) But Wall Street, economists and big business are shocked and horrified. There’s something palpably disturbing about having a commander and chief who knows less than you do about business and finance. Which is why markets have been headed nowhere or down for a year and half and why global bond yields are tanking.

Just because someone is standing in front of you confidently asserting they see a pink elephant doesn’t mean there’s a pink elephant in the room with you. No matter how many times they scream or tweet it. There is never a time when it’s not important to remember this.

The biggest economic conundrum the United States faces at the moment regarding interest rates is that economic conditions are doing well by all measures that The (not)Fed uses to address its dual mandate of maintaining stable inflation and keeping unemployment low. The United States is at record low unemployment. Even by the president’s own accounts… And yes this seeming disconnect in his understanding of basic economics is frustrating. And disturbing. So the (not)Fed has absolutely no realistic fundamental reasons to lower rates based on their long running mandate.

While it’s true that the global economy seems to be heading toward a recession, or worse (over 30 countries now have negative yielding interest rates — with a record 15 TRILLION dollars in global debt that is yielding negative interest! This is historically unprecedented in human civilization), and many now have inverted yield curves (including the US)), the US is still doing impressively well. Meaning lowering rates is not justifiable.

Further rate cuts by the US central bank based solely on other countries’ lowering theirs may excite markets for a day or two, but will ultimately lead to a sell off as investors lose faith in the US central bank’s normally independent, rational and clear headed process. It could also lead to a very fast race to the bottom of treasury rates globally, gut savings and retirement accounts, castrate bank’s’ ability to make money, and further exacerbate the growing global economic slowdown. At that point the world would no longer have the US economy or markets to run to. And THAT would be a major problem considering it’s the last TINA Trade left on earth right now to grow money.

Furthermore if the world does continue to shrink economically and the Federal Reserve suddenly needs to actually lower rates or resort to QE again to save us from impending doom, they’ll have no ammunition left if they lower rates now in a “booming economy”. It’s an illogical argument. And it’s sad that there are decent hardworking Americans out there who are literally learning about these issues from someone who’s either extremely ignorant about them or overtly attempting to deceive them. It’s blatantly irresponsible.

So… what to do? Because most informed people agree with the noble goal of addressing the problems with China trade, most support the president’s courageous attempt to do so at this time. Including me. Tariff wars might not be the best way to do it. Historically they’ve rarely worked. But just starting the process is a good intention. Can’t fault him for his willingness to take this bold step. He’s swimming in uncharted waters. And despite our political leanings he needs our support. Just as we need his.

What he needs to do is stop tweeting insults, attacks, false facts and conspiracy theories and instead sit down behind his desk on live TV and address the nation, to honestly and passionately tell the American people and the world how important this battle is, why we’re doing it and that we all need to pitch in and prepare for some serious pain now in order to secure a better fairer trade agreement with China for our future.

If he did this, the confusion would abate and so too might the market volatility. Hell, markets might even rally just to show support for his newfound diplomacy and honesty and the stability it portends. In addition he might even rally the American people to unify for even a brief period while we face this important challenge. Just a thought.

— Ambassador out

The Most Effective Manner Of Democratic Self Governance

August 18, 2019

On a recent post on social media about US president Donald Trump one could see 376 Comments. Almost all passionately and harshly bickering with each other over their ever widening partisan divide. 376 Comments?!? That’s a lot of time, attention and energy. All so valuable. Perhaps an assessment of how we are collectively allocating our resources is in order.

A president or prime minister is put simply a reflection of the sentiment of a majority of any given population in a nation state at the time. It is important to remember that. There are others. No one party or platform or group of people has a monopoly on being right. This “rightness” usually exists somewhere in between both extremes. It strikes one as odd how few people seem to realize this when it comes to politics and religion. Especially in the context of everything we have learned and know from a study of our shared human history. It is this forgetting of such a basic truth that has been causing wars amongst human civilizations for thousands of years.

In reality there are both noble and harmful goals being aspired to and enacted by almost every country’s leader in every administration. The people’s’ primary goal should not be to choose sides and defend their candidate’s agenda in its entirety to the death, but rather to step back and monitor the leader’s actions individually as a concerned citizen and protector of their country and its constitution, irrespective of partisan politics. Upon doing so the individual will quickly see that the job of that person is so mammoth and overreaching that the partisan bickering of the populace does nothing but

distract that leader from being able to do their job effectively.

Donald Trump may be one of the most adored and despised presidents in US history, but precisely because of that he is also surely one of the most challenged when it comes to being able to effectively govern. This is never a good thing for a people, lest those people forget that the world is watching and the world is a very competitive place with plenty of bad actors who harbor no good will towards other countries they perceive as competitors.

Instead each individual has an obligation to rise above their emotional partisan leanings and objectively voice their viewpoint to their elected government officials in agreement or dissension of said agenda and actions to help guide and steer the ship of their country’s path forward, That is how a people can most effectively help govern their country of residence.

If for a moment we assume that most people are simply incapable of this high-wire act of both agreeing with some goals of their president and disagreeing with others, due to their impassioned emotions creating an inability to see the bigger picture importance of effectively governing a nation, it still behooves these same people to minimize the effort they put into complaining and bickering amongst themselves and instead focus their attention and energy on actions that help sway the direction of their own governance by said elected officials.

Even simple actions of some substance — a letter a phone call an email a petition starting a non profit or NGO or PAC or a Thoughtstorm group — are better than arguing in the public square. This is the keen understanding that people who lead have had for thousands of years of human history. This is why they are the leaders. There are a multitude of effective substantive actions that every individual in the United States can be taking right now. All vastly more valuable than arguing on social media.

Many in a country’s populace have big juicy noble goals. Though sometimes those goals directly conflict with those of their fellow citizens. This is where democracy and compromise come into play. A mutual respect for civility and democratic ideas that continues long eras of peace and sustainability in a civilization.

Laws can always be overturned or amended. (Think the abolition of slavery in the US.) Disrespect for the law, such as dismissing the validity of the results of an electoral process, or lawlessness most often leads to chaos self-destruction and fascist or communist overthrow. [study the Napoleonic overthrow of France and half of Europe after their alleged people’s revolution on Bastille Day — a still-shocking and vital lesson in the importance of and need for respect civility organization and democratic principles and infrastructure.]

Why Is Brasilian Music So Great?

July 13, 2019

[So I spelled “Brasilian” wrong… At least if we are speaking English, which will prevent this post from ranking high or even popping up in search engines when beginners are searching for data regarding Brazilian music. Which admittedly sucks in a way. Because everyone should know about Brasilian music. The more the better. Brasilian music, like coffee or chocolate or Radiohead or sex or Avatar or God is something that everyone should have a chance to discover and experience and enjoy. It’s that good. It’s that great. That glorious. But Brasilian is actually how the word is spelled. Because the actual name of the country is Brasil. Not Brazil. regardless of what most of us are taught in the English speaking world. I don’t know if we want to go as far as calling that some form of racism or classism or just being careless and selfish, but it’s a dismissive act that we in the West have been guilty of far too many times for far too long when it comes to other countries. We heard “Brazil” so we just decided to call it that. At some point we learned how the people actually spell their country’s name and we never bothered to correct it. It would be akin to finding out that Brasilians call the U.S. the Y.S. by mistake and just never bothered to fix it. It feels demeaning. So, Brasilian it is. Because that’s their name.

On a good note, what we’ll find is that people who have made it at least to the point in their exploration of this glorious country and culture will easily find this post, as they’ll be spelling the name of the country right when they run their search for Brasilian music. But alas this post isn’t just for the already-converted. In fact, I’d prefer it hit the average person who’s always just been curious why every now and then we hear of yet another person who’s going gaga over Brasilian music…. Or better yet, perhaps even people who aren’t even aware of this phenomenon yet. Just to discover how amazing this very special music is. It’s that good.]

So… Where to begin. As some may know, I first got the Brasil bug about 20 years ago. And it hit me hard — in a major way. This is why I recorded and released 3 Brasilian classics on various albums over the last 20 years. I know it may seem a bit cheesy or annoying to the uninitiated, random songs in Portuguese popping up on our albums… You probably skip them. I probably would if i didn’t speak the language. I get it. But let me explain… It’s important. I can easily reflect back on the events and relay them here, though I’m not sure I can adequately explain the near supernatural way it all felt and went down. But I’ll try.

The first Brasilian song I ever heard was “Fio Maravilha” by Jorge Bem Jor. This is going back now over 20 years. Broken Spectacles was just breaking up. I was devastated. I hadn’t yet moved to New York to record Acoustic In New York. I was sort of lost musically for a few months. That breakup was hard. Those guys were my brothers. We had been together for 6 straight years. Lived together. So I was grieving. We all were. Though we weren’t speaking. Each of us holding onto our own personal grudges and resentments.

Ed Hale with Broken Spectacles mid-90s
Ed Hale and Matthew Sabatella with Broken Spectacles, mid-90s

I was also thoroughly tired of western music — meaning anything pop or rock from America or England or Ireland or Australia. And yeah that included classical or avant garde or jazz or folk… Anything English or Western. Anything remotely “normal”. So i had already abandoned regular tuned guitar playing and was now completely immersed in creating my own open-tuned guitar tunings and writing only in those…. All of the Acoustic In New York album is in an open-tuning of some kind. Back then I pretty much only used my open D9 or a funky open A I came up with, both of which I still use a lot today. So yeah that whole album is either open D9 or open A. Funny now. But true.

I also had completely abandoned listening to anything western or even in English — other people’s music I mean. My answer to the band’s breakup was to still do music and explore and listen to music, but just not western music. So I started buying a ton of different album collections of what we were calling World Music. I just started soaking it all in. It was all so new for me. Music from France and Italy and Spain, Iran and India and Russia and poland, Nigeria and Senegal and Mali etc etc. Pretty much any and every country. Some spoke to me. Some didn’t. But i dug the process of discovery. A whole new world was opened to me that as a band we had explored very little, because we were so focused on “making it”…. We just didn’t have room for “world music”. We were so busy either making music or keeping up with our peers and perceived competitors, all Western music artists.

One day I’m listening to this World Music collection — and I believe it was one of Putumayo’s (they really deserve all the credit for this World Music explosion that happened in the States in the 90s. They don’t get enough credit for what they accomplished IMHO). And suddenly I hear this song… “Fio Maravilha”. The artist was Jorge Bem Jor. How do you even explain it? That feeling? Well it was very similar to how I felt when I first heard the Beatles. Or Dylan. Or Bowie. Or Kate Bush. I was just totally knocked out. Chills. Electrified. There was something supremely special about this song and this artist. I knew it was deeper than just digging on some new discovery from Italy or France. This was a life-changing moment for me musically and personally. It felt supernatural. I was mesmerized but couldn’t explain WHY. Everyone I played the song for seemed “not that interested”, which I couldn’t understand. Didn’t they hear what I was hearing?

 

But remember we’re still in pre-internet days here. It existed, but no one’s using it yet. There was no “running a search to look up the song” thing going on yet…. So I had no idea what this song was. I didn’t know what country it came from and i sure as hell couldn’t figure out what language it was. Maybe it was African. I really dug a lot of the African stuff. (More on that in another post perhaps…) But it sounded like the guy was singing in French. So Africa made sense. But i had studied French. It wasn’t French. Some of the words sounded like they were in Spanish. But I spoke Spanish. It was’t Spanish. Italian maybe? I grew up in an Italian household. Definitely not Italian. Damn it. What WAS it?

All I knew was that I must have listened to that song ten to twenty times a day for weeks. Just absolutely fell in love with it. More than all the songs from all the other countries I was listening to (NOTE: there were two exceptions; though they’re off point they’re important to mention: Ali Farka Toure from Mali and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan from Pakistan also became favorites of mine….) One day I meet this girl through the scene. I can’t remember her name. But she had this really round face. I mean like an apple kind of round. Cute. Kind of foreign looking. Nice girl. And she had a peculiar accent. After some talking and hanging I learned that she was from Brasil. And more importantly I learned that Brasil was in South America (not Africa, as some Americans mistakenly believe) and more importantly still I learned that they spoke Portuguese in Brasil. NOT Spanish. Which was HUGE. Because in the States we just always assume that everyone speaks Spanish in “Latin America”… It’s just this assumption that we make. It’s a sincerely crazy notion really, because Brasil is the largest country in South America. (!!!) And they don’t speak Spanish there. But I can’t honestly say I even knew that much at the time.

But whatever. It’s just how we are in the U.S. We lump the whole continent together including Central America, almost as if they’re one big country. Which they’re not. Not even a little bit. It’s a major faux paz.

[I assume this has become a little better since the advent of the internet age… though I’m not sure how many people know where Brasil is or know that they don’t speak Spanish, but rather Portuguese, or are aware of their many cultural accomplishments as a people…]

Eventually I learn from this girl that she KNOWS this song that I am madly in LOVE with, “Fio Maravilha”. Like she KNOWS it knows it. She’s known it all her life. It’s a super famous classic in Brasil. She grew up hearing it on the radio all her life. Mind BLOWN. Wow. Okay. So that’s Portuguese. Portuguese? Man what the fuck is Portuguese? I had no idea what that was…

I really didn’t even ever consider that there were “hit songs” outside of Western music. It just never occurred to me. I guess I just always assumed that the whole world was listening to the same hits and the same artists we were in the States and in the UK. There’s a term for that…. living with blinders on… shallow? living in a bubble? jingoism perhaps? But it’s not important. Suffice it to say I was a kid and just had absolutely no awareness of anything musical much outside of the little world we lived in within the confines of western music… America, England, Ireland, Australia, all of it primarily due to and because of music. (Literature and history of course were a different story. But we’re talking about music here.)

But all that changed when I heard that first Brasilian song. What was even weirder was that this girl also taught me that this song was NOT a beautiful romantic love song to a girl like I assumed it was — it IS a beautiful romantic song, no doubt about it.. And when you hear it, that’s what you just automatically assume it is.. because it’s so poetic and beautiful sounding…. But in reality, “Fio Maravilha” was an homage to a soccer player and a particular goal he scores in one important game. Fio maravilha means “marvelous son” in portuguese. What the fuck? This incredibly gorgeous sonorous song is about soccer??? I must admit i was stupefied at first. I didn’t get it.

I was a young, idealistic, intellectual artist and consciousness explorer who paid NO attention to sports. So this was a very foreign concept to me… to write such a beautiful song about soccer? And then for the song to become a big hit and then a classic. Seriously? What?

Later I would learn the history of Brasil, social, political, cultural etc. and the very important role soccer actually plays in it… It’s a fascinating human story. It is very difficult to fully relay the importance of football in Brasil, and impossible to overstate just how important it is there. Brasil is the all time most winningest country in the world in football/soccer. No one comes close to them. Most World Cups. Most Americas Cups. In the 50s and 60s when the chips were down for them socially and politically they mesmerized the entire world with their championship talent, ability to play and multiple wins in soccer globally. You can watch the footage on YouTube. It’s awe-inspiring how much better they are than everyone else. Like magicians or artists. Pele… Brasilian.

Regardless of the strange subject matter, I quickly became obsessed. There was something so transcendent about this music…. it didn’t matter to me what the song was about. I just wanted to hear more. I started buying anything I could get my hands on that was Brasilian. Compilations mostly. I then heard Caetano Veloso. Jesus this was like hearing McCartney for the first time. (Except in some ways he’s better. In other ways, not. I mean, Sir Paul is Sir Paul…) Everyone knows I have an obsession with Caetano. I consider him one of the few “best of all time”. He’s right up there with John Lennon, Sir Paul, Dylan, Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell, Bowie and The Boss. The song “Caetano” from our Nothing Is Cohesive album is literally me singing the praises of and drooling over how amazing Caetano Veloso is. So yeah… he’s my man.

Then I heard Gilberto Gil. Specifically the song “So Quero Um Xodo”. The melody was light and airy and happy, but sad at the same time. I needed to know what he was talking about. Just had to. I found the translation to English and started reading it. And for whatever reason it just hit me. Hard. Like BAM! By this point two years had passed. My deal with SONY never transpired. The album never came out. I came back to Miami from New York with my tail between my legs, broke, depressed, dejected, and thoroughly disheartened with music as a career. I was 25 years old at the time. i was finished with music. I didn’t write it. Didn’t play it. Didn’t listen to it and wouldn’t let anyone around me listen to it. Almost two years like that. Music made me sad. Really sad. So i just took it out of my life.

Then i heard that song by Gilberto Gil. There was such happiness and freedom in his voice, and yet he was singing about stuff that was so sad… about how hard life is and how lonely he was and how his life would be okay if he could just find someone to love, someone to call honey or dear or sweetheart… I sat there at my desk and started crying. Then balling. Something touched me deeply about the total recklessness and abandonment of the male ego and American strength and ambition that we are raised to put on in the States. There was none of that in Gil’s song. Just a lonely guy, singing happily, almost gleefully, about his grieving and the pains of life and how one day he might find happiness.

Within an hour I got one of my guitars out of the closet where they’d been for almost two years and started to play. And then write. I hadn’t played a guitar or any instrument in all that time. Hadn’t even listened to a song or seen a video. Stayed far away from all of it. But that night I played all night and into the next day. Something had changed. Looking back now, at the whole trip, at everything that’s transpired over the last 20 years, — because I know I’ve been very lucky, things came late for me… but they worked out well, me coming back to it after a two year break… — I guess you could say that it took something very foreign and far removed culturally, musically, lyrically to shake me up and shake me out of my discouragement.

In all the different Brasilian songs I was hearing I kept noticing that there was an inherent poorness in the people, financially speaking… they sang about it… these were not Americans or Europeans… These were not people accustomed to having it all, to being able to buy whatever they want, to buying a house before you’re 30 years old, to having two cars…. And yet they were supernaturally positive, poetic, intellectual, spiritual…. It was uncanny and confusing, but inspiring.

These were people who grew up and lived in “favelas”, which are basically giant projects of tiny little houses made of cardboard and billboard signs and old tires and put together with rope and old used wires and cables…. these were shanty towns. With no running water or electricity, conceptually something that we in the U.S. couldn’t even imagine, and yet their music was so carefree and happy, but also deep, poetic, profound and intellectual. I just couldn’t get it to make sense…

But it felt like i was connecting with something so deeply meaningful to me personally that it could be past life related. I mean, it was that powerful. It tugged at my heart. Sincerely. I felt it in my heart. It was that powerful. And yeah, I’m half English and half Italian. So it should have happened with Italian or English music. But it didn’t. It happened with Brasilian music.

I had to go there. I needed to learn Portuguese so i could get inside of this incredibly beautiful language and really understand firsthand what all the lyrics were about. Why did it sound so good? Why were the lyrics so poetic? I also had to get to know the people and their culture. There was something so different about them. So spiritual. So deep. So not full of shit. So sincere. I also wanted to learn how to play their music. And there was no way I could learn it in the U.S.

So let’s start there. Why IS Brasilian music so great? Something I’ve contemplated a lot lately. At the moment I am attempting to learn how to play the song “Aguas de Marco” by Tom Jobim and Ellis Regina. You know it. Trust me. You’ve heard it a million times. It’s been a hit here in the States too. It’s an old 70s song. It might be the most beautiful song ever written. It’s also one of the most poetic and profound lyrically.

Musically this song is a beast. A monster. On the guitar it’s like a giant roller coaster of a Loch Ness Monster filled with far too many chords, all of them jazz chords that take more than four fingers to form. My first trip to Brasil was in ’98. Stayed there for a few months studying Portuguese at a language school in the mornings and then going to lunch and then studying Brasilian music all afternoon at another school. Crazy, I know. But I was obsessed. I wanted to speak portuguese as fluently as I did English and Spanish and I wanted to be able to play Brasilian music as well as I could play Western music. So i attacked it full on.

But the finer point is that it took me 20 years to even consider ever learning to play this song “Aguas de Marco”, even though I’ve always LOVED it. I just always labeled it “way too difficult”. The last few weeks though, I started listening to it again and casually commented to Princess Little Tree that “I could never learn to play that song. It’s way too complicated….” and she said, “yeah right. You’ll learn it and be playing it by the end of the week like you always do.” In Avatar we call that a White Worm. She shifted me with that comment, delivered as casually as my earlier discouraged remark about it being too difficult to ever play. So I picked up the guitar and started slowly learning it. I’m still in the practicing phase of it…. Slowly getting there. It’s hard. Really hard. But I’m getting there….

And this got me revved up. Because honestly the song really is incredibly difficult. Unless you literally grew up playing jazz your whole life. Which I didn’t. And yeah I have years and years, hell, decades now, of experience playing Brasilian music, but most of the Bossa Nova stuff I have always shied away from because of how challenging it is. But I skipped ahead. Let’s start at what I have lately been calling “reason number one why Brasilian music is so great”:

 

Reason Number one: When you first hear Brasilian music the first thing you notice is how beautiful it is. How mysterious it sounds. It’s fucking gorgeous to the ear. Sonically everything about it is transcendent. But it’s also completely different sounding than what we’re accustomed to in the West. And there’s a reason for this. They don’t use the same chords that we do. They still use the 12 note do rei mi scale that we do in western music — unlike say India or Mali etc., but the chords they use all come from the earlier Bossa Nova music that came out in the 50s, which was a spin off of american jazz, but their version. You know Bossa Nova. Even if you don’t know you do.

Think of that song “Girl from Ipanema”. That’s probably the worst of the Brasilian songs honestly, but that’s what it took to break Brasilian music into the U.S. Something simple and elementary like that. Truth is, most bossa nova is incredibly complex. In the U.S. Bossa as it’s called is considered jazz. If you major in music in college, you take an entire semester of just Bossa Nova. That’s how big and transformative it was and still is to music.

When you think of Bossa Nova, think of Tom Jobim or Joao Gilberto (who just passed away this week…). Between the two of them they’ve got 20 songs you know but don’t realize are actually Brasilian classics. Bossa Nova was both jazzy and pop at the same time. It wasn’t atonal chaotic free-form improv music like a lot of american jazz. You can easily groove to and sing along with it. But it utilizes jazz chording to create the progressions.

You hear these beautiful melodies and chord progressions and they sound just like normal beautiful songs…. You have no idea that underneath it all are these incredibly complex jazz chord structures. You’re just swept away by the beauty of the music…. So you really don’t think about it.

That’s why i needed to go to Brasil and learn it. I tried learning it here in the States and as soon as i looked at one song and how funky the chords were, I was like “What the hell?” I just wasn’t familiar with chords like that. (If you’re a musician, then you know we occasionally use diminished and augmented chords, but only occasionally… 7s and 9s and sus4s a lot…. But the Brasilians take it to a whole other level. They’ll have chords like Gm7(9)(13)/G# and that’s standard… And they use a LOT of flat 5s. -5 or 5- are everywhere. Which are killer on your fingers. Especially when combined with 4s, 6s, 7s, 9s, 13s and different bass notes (another favorite of theirs). And they’ll have the entire song is made up of chords like that. And there will be like 15 to 30 of them in one song and they bounce around them endlessly sometimes all within one verse… It’s total madness. So it’s like learning a whole new language.)

After Bossa Nova, the next generation of Brasilians created a new kind of music which is called MPB, which stands for musica popular Brasileira. This is where you get guys like Caetano, Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque, Milton Nascieamento, Jorge Bem, etc. The new generation. The Tropicalia generation. It’s essentially Bossa as it’s foundation, but with influences from American and English pop and rock like Dylan and the Beatles and Hendrix and then also influences of avant garde from America and Europe mixed in like John Cage or John Cale or Terry Reilly. It’s trippy but it’s eerily accessible music.

MPB is more “pop”, it “sounds” more western, sort of, but again it’s totally unique from western music. Still has that passion, poetry and mystery to it that’s unique to Brasilian music. And that’s because they still composed their songs using those bossa nova jazz chords as their foundation, but also threw in some Western styled chords too. When I say western styled chords, i literally mean the chords that you and I use and take for granted as musicians… C, D, Am, GMaj7, B7, Dmin7, etc. Simple stuff comparatively. But THEY started incorporating more of those into their music for the first time. Specifically to attempt to make their music sound more Western and more pop or rock. And it worked. Jorge Bem Jor is really good at making western styled pop/rock. He occasionally writes songs that really are composed of mostly western chords. But he’s one of the only ones.

So yeah that’s the first thing you notice, that stands out. Like with all music… Just the music itself, the melodies and harmonies and progressions….  the unique beauty of their music. And as explained above, there’s a reason for it. They’re not making music the same way we are. Not at all. Totally different musical components underneath.

 

Reason Number Two: The sound of the voices and the Portuguese language. The next thing that grabs you are the voices… there’s a purity and a sincerity to the voices in Brasilian music that we rarely hear in the West. Think Radiohead. That kind of vulnerability and pathos. Hell that’s why they’re fucking Radiohead. They lay it all out there. So too do the best Brasilian artists. Then there’s the sound of the language itself. You may not understand a word of what’s being said, but you just know it SOUNDS beautiful.

I explain Portuguese like this. Imagine a sentence in your own language, any sentence, a small one of just a few words. Now imagine it visually, being about three to six inches tall, the letters and words of that sentence. Put it up on a table or counter. Can you see it? Now that’s a sentence in your native language standing up there three to six inches tall. You can see it visually. The Brasilians took Portuguese, one of the five Latin languages (related to French, Italian, Spanish and Romanian), the native language of Portugal — which is actually quite similar to Spanish in many ways… But they flattened and softened it through the centuries.

[Brasilian Portuguese is it’s own language. It’s NOT the same as Portuguese. Literally. Again, not something most people know. But when you go to learn Portuguese, you are asked to make a choice between regular portuguese, as in Portugal, or Brasilian Portuguese, which is formally referred to as Portuguese-BR.]

Picture the sentence of words that you put up on the table in your mind. Now imagine someone coming along taking their hands and flattening all those words and letters till they’re like less than an inch tall. That’s what the Brasilians did to Portuguese. They just flattened all the consonants and vowels… Then they took a warm iron and flattened those words and letters even more, and then they took a steamer and softened them all up till your sentence is no more than a few milometers high…. You can’t even see the words and letters anymore. Because they’ve been so flattened. Which creates the softest most poetic and beautiful language you’ve ever heard.

Sure French is pretty. There’s something really sexy and sensual about speaking French… the way it rolls off your tongue and out of your mouth… You have to deliberately act like you have marbles in your mouth to make it sound authentic. Like you just had dental surgery and you can’t open your mouth…. So too is Italian a beautiful language. It’s so sing-songy and lyrical. It feels like your’re breaking into song or reciting poetry when you speak Italian. It’s fucking gleeful. No matter what you’re actually saying. It’s an incredible feeling actually. Speaking Italian. But each their own. In their own way. None better than the other. As with all languages….

And then there’s Brasilian Portuguese. All the consonants have been softened to the point where they all start to sound the same. There is absolutely no stress, tension or struggle in Portuguese. It’s the polar opposite of Russian or German or any of the Scandinavian languages, which let’s face it, are anything but “soft”. Some languages have more of a “hard” sound to them…. Some are softer. Portuguese is incredibly “soft” sounding. Like being massaged in a hot bath with the lights turned down low…. In portuguese, there’s a lot of the jhuh sound. Half the consonants have it. Or just shhh.

All the R’s have been changed to H’s. Both in the beginning, middle and ending of words. It’s a trip. But it makes for a much softer language than most. Instead of trilling or rolling the R’s at the end of sentences as in Spanish, which is a harder sound to the ear, they’ve turned them into haaahhhh or huuuhhhh. It all makes for a very soft, poetic, euphonious and gorgeous sound to the ears.

Another thing is that they speak, and thus sing, most of the language through the front of their face and their nose. It may sound weird, but if you’ve studied classical singing you know that we’re taught to not sing from our throats but rather through the “mask” of the front of the face and to “throw” about a third to a half of our sound through our nose in order to make for the most beautiful singing. Well…. here’s an entire country full of people who just naturally happen to speak and sing through the “mask” of the front of the face and place about a third to a half of the words through their nose in order to pronounce the language properly. A coincidence? Maybe. But it works. If you’ve studied or speak other languages then you know that some actually require you to deliberately use the back of your throat to speak the language authentically. This is a deliberately hard sound, made hard sounding by the use of the throat and various glottal sounds. Arabic and the Semitic languages come to mind. And again German…

Personally I honestly can’t choose between Italian or Portuguese or French. I believe that all three are equally gorgeous. Depending on the need or goal at hand. But Portuguese… Wow…. There’s just nothing like it. If French is the language of love and Italian is the language of great opera, Portuguese is the language of God and the human soul.

 

Reason Number Three: After you start getting into Brasilian music you might decide to learn what’s actually being said. In your native language. And this is the next thing that really knocks you on your ass when it comes to Brasilian music. Once you actually start reading what they’re saying… And how they’re saying it. The poetic nature of how they form thoughts is truly profound. Entirely different from how we do it in English or Spanish or French or Italian — the closest might be the French. They’re pop is pretty freaking profound at times actually…..

The Brasilians can literally make a song about a soccer player seem like they’re talking about the second coming of the messiah. And in the song “Fio Maravilha” they do. It’s not JUST a song about a soccer player, see…. It’s a song about the redemption of an entire people who’ve been oppressed for hundreds of years through the magnanimous glory of a supremely gifted artist who is almost deified for his glorious talent on the football field and how grateful the people are for his talents and gifts and the glorious way he plays, for he truly is a gift from heaven, an angel. And that’s the song in a nutshell. It gives you chills. It transcends its subject matter.

In the song “Girl from Ipanema” (and I’m just choosing this song because you know it…. there are much better examples….) the English translation was done by this American hack who completely destroyed the poetic nature of the original portuguese lyrics. To the point where Jobim and Joao Gilberto refused to continue the recording process. They were horrified by the English translation. They called it “shallow and vulgar”. Ultimately it wasn’t their call to make. The American music business machine had already taken over and had them sign over all their rights. So they were stuck with a song that they didn’t like.

BUT if you go back and read an actual transliteration of the lyrics of this song, you’ll see that it’s actually a gorgeous work of brilliant poetry by one of the great poets of Brasil, Vinicius De Moraes, who in Brasil is known as just “Vinicius” (because he transcends that much, no last name required… everyone knows who you’re talking about. Same with Jobim, Gilberto, Joao, Caetano, Jorge, Chico…. These guys have risen to this point of “first name only” status.)

But back to “Girl from Ipanema”. In this song, they start the song off by immediately comparing this mysterious girl of beauty and grace they see stroll by on the beach to the Holy Mother right from the start. TOTALLY different than the shallow “long and tall and dark and lovely” lyrics in the English translation. NONE of that is in the actual song. This American dickweed just made it up because he didn’t speak Portuguese. The original song is pure poetry. Mystery. Profundity. About grace and beauty and honor and heaven and the power of all that and yet how far away it all is. It’s a symbolic statement about something much grander than just a girl on a beach.

Check out the song “Eu Sei Que Vou Te Amar”. Jobim and Vinicius wrote that together too. I actually recorded that one…. You might know it. But don’t listen to mine. Listen to Caetano’s version. Or Joao Gilberto’s. Or heck even better listen to Jobim sing it. He wrote it. Gorgeous work of poetry and beauty.

 

Caetano Veloso is a master of this poetic style. He’ll be appearing to be singing about one thing, but in reality you realize he’s singing about something much bigger, but he keeps swooping in and out of the two to three different arenas like a beautiful poetic bird. He’s a master songwriter. A true poet. A true composer. Check out “Desde que o Samba e Samba”, or “O Leaonzinho” or “Sampa”. All three are classics. Incredible songs. Brilliant songs. Beautiful songs. But precisely because they are also brilliant works of musical art and lyrical poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

Superbacana

July 3, 2019

Three days ago I heard the song “Superbacana” by Caetano Veloso for the first time… or at least it was the first time that I “heard” it, really listened to it. It blow me away. It’s off his Tropicalia album, the one that really shook the earth beneath all of Brasil and started the whole Tropicalismo or Tropicalia social and political movement there. (Along with equal contributions from Gilberto Gil and Os Mutantes and Tom Ze and Gal Costa and others.

Anyway, I do what I always do. I listen to the song ten to twenty times in a row, analyzing the lyrics and the poetry of the beautifully perfect Portuguese language, still in my opinion the most poetic of them all (and yes, being Italian and speaking Italian and French and Spanish etc. I know what a betrayal that may sound like… but there’s just something transcendent about this language, both in how it sounds to the ear and in how the words and phrases are strung together…. Obviously a subjective thing. I’ll give you that.) I then do a quick translation to English to see if I missed anything. Wow, what a fucking song that is. Simple. Fun. Light-hearted. On the surface. And yet still a Dylanesque social protest song. And the way he spits the lyrics out so fast. Truly genius.

Then I spend three days transcribing the chords, listening to it over and over again. Searching the internet for anyone who has ever transcribed the chords to just get some help with it. But no one has. And this song is 50 years old! I WhatsApp a friend of mine in Brasil to ask him about the song. He tells me “yeah bro, not many people know that song. Not even here in Brasil. It’s only hip with super hip people. It’s not like a popular song, like so many of his….Good luck with that. But I really hope you figure it out, because I can’t wait to hear you sing it with your strong funny Portuguese accent!”

I’m going to include some links below so you can listen to the song on YouTube. Because it’s just that good. Bear in mind, it’s 1967, so it still has elements of that orchestrated pop of the sixties, plus elements of the popular bossa nova style happening in Brasil at the time (think Tom Jobim) and yet it also has this frantic rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it and a sort of folky protest theme to it as well. A very hip tune. The whole Tropicalia album by Caetano is brilliant. A definite must-have.

When you analyze the lyrics, basically Caetano is saying “You all act like you don’t even know I exist, but I believe you’re pretending. Not only do you know I was born, but you also know that I am super fucking cool. (Superbacana literally translates to “super-cool”). And he uses the song to rally against the bourgeois class currently occupying Copacabana and the government with all their big spending on technology and other things that he doesn’t believe help him or the people of the country. But in the end he and his people are still super-cool regardless.

When I first discovered it, it reminded me of the song “ManChildWoman”, the way he’s just overtly bragging, very rock ‘n’ roll swagger… Which I admit I do a lot of from time to time in certain songs… It’s all in fun…. Just to catch a groove and ride it. But after studying the song more, I believe there’s more to Caetano’s “Superbacana” than just empty bragging like “ManChildWoman”. Truly. It’s more Dylan. The bragging is more asserting his existence against an authoritarian regime that refused to acknowledge their existence for so long. It’s a life or death kind of “I believe in me” type of thing. Whereas I was there when I wrote “ManChildWoman” (at least I think I was…as much as I could be considering…) and there was no life or death vibe in my mind. I remember. It was more just “I believe in me mother fucker yeah!” They both have their place. It’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all important. As important as rock ‘n’ roll can be.

I’m still trying to figure it out. Learning the chords. Trying to learn the phrasing of how he spits out those lyrics so fast. It’s a brilliant piece of work.

Anyway, check it out. It’s a hip tune. Truly special.